A Jan. 6 raider got a state regulator job from Ron DeSantis. Here's what has happened since
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who launched his presidential bid this week, was the subject of a USA TODAY investigation this week revealing he appointed a woman who raided the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 to a state oversight board. Meanwhile, a man with a Nazi flag rammed into barriers outside the White House, while the Department of Homeland Security confirmed the Allen, Texas, shooter's neo-Nazi ideology, warning he is part of a growing trend. And what Target pulling Pride merchandise from its shelves after threats says about extremist far-right's fixation with the LGBTQ community.
It's the week in extremism.
Appointing an insurrectionist?
Appointing an insurrectionist: She stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. Then Gov. Ron DeSantis made her a state regulator
Sandra Atkinson, a county Republican chair in Florida, can be seen in videos breaking into the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, according to a USA TODAY investigation of footage outside and inside the building, and an interview with a Republican Party colleague. Two months after the insurrection, Gov. De Santis appointed her to the Florida Board of Massage Therapy, where she would spend more than a year overseeing the profession in the state, and granting or taking away practitioners' licenses, often based on their own criminal backgrounds.
Atkinson was identified in social media posts and security footage from the Capitol riot first identified by a member of the Sedition Hunters community, a group of volunteer sleuths. A colleague of Atkinson's confirmed the woman in the videos is the GOP county chairwoman, and said Atkinson also later bragged about going into then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office.
Atkinson's tenure on the board was short-lived. She left at some point in 2022 after her appointment was never confirmed by the state Senate. In her last meeting, Atkinson made an outburst about an applicant's ability to speak English, which was later disavowed by her board colleagues, who called her words "discriminatory."
DeSantis launched his presidential bid on Wednesday in a glitch-filled event on Twitter Spaces with former Twitter CEO Elon Musk. The governor has refused to answer any questions about his appointment of Atkinson.
Man with Nazi flag rams White House barriers
Allure of neo-Nazism: The Allen shooter was Hispanic. He was also a white supremacist. What's the allure?
On Monday evening, Sai Varshith Kandula a 19-year-old Missouri man, crashed a rented U-Haul into barriers outside the White House in what court documents later revealed to be a bid to "seize power" and kill the president. During Kandula's short-lived attack, he allegedly waved around a Nazi flag before being arrested.
Kandula told police he brought the flag because "Nazis have a great history" and he admired their "authoritarian nature, eugenics and their one world order," according to court documents. Nobody was injured in the attack.
Earlier this month, a man with neo-Nazi tattoos opened fire in a mall in Allen, Texas, killing 9 people including himself. Department of Homeland Security officials confirmed this week the suspect in that attack had a "neo-Nazi" ideology.
I explained in this story last week how and why neo-Nazism and white supremacy doesn't just attract white people.
DHS also issued an advisory bulletin Wednesday warning the U.S. remains in a "heightened threat environment." "Lone offenders and small groups motivated by a range of ideological beliefs and personal grievances continue to pose a persistent and lethal threat," the bulletin states.
What Target's LGBTQ walk-back says about extremism today
Target faces criticism: Target faces criticism over decision to remove LGBTQ items
A week before Pride month, the department store Target this week began relocating some LGBTQ-branded merchandise inside its stores and removing some items after a backlash from conservatives and threats from the extreme far-right.
Target held an emergency meeting after people posted videos online criticizing the retail store's annual promotion of LGBTQ pride and products including so-called "tuck friendly swimwear," which allows trans women who have not had gender-affirming operations to conceal male genitals. Online posters falsely claimed the swimwear was for children, in an example of how misinformation is used to fuel extremist threats.
Earlier this year, Bud Light faced a similar backlash from conservatives and far-right extremists after a marketing partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney.
Attacks on the LGBTQ community, especially on trans people and particularly on drag shows have become the central focus of the extremist far-right in the U.S. Extremists from neo-Nazis to the Proud Boys street gang have showed up at dozens of protests against drag shows across the country in the last two years.
“Any community that is considered a threat to the way of life of the population is then targeted as a group to be stopped,” Marilyn Mayo, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism told USA TODAY last year. “That, in turn, leads people to marginalize that group and then act.”
Statistic of the week: 18
That's the number of years Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was sentenced to serve in prison Thursday for his conviction on seditious conspiracy charges for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Guide: These are the Oath Keepers being sentenced in the Capitol riot
"However long I spend in prison, my goal will be to be an American Solzhenitsyn to expose the criminality of this regime," Rhodes said, comparing himself to prominent Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and referencing the Biden administration.
The sentence is the longest any Jan. 6 participant has received.
Catch up: Paul Gosar aide linked to Nick Fuentes, white supremacist group in new report
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: DeSantis appointment of Jan. 6 raider; Nazi flag at White House crash